Dear Artist,

Stephen Vizinczey‘s seventh commandment is “Thou shalt not let a day pass without rereading something great.” I’m kind of converted. For a while I kept Bartlett’s at my elbow as I painted, flipping randomly while paint was drying, letting my finger do the walking for a quick fix between strokes. Some time back I tried reading the Britannica, all of it, mostly in bed. Of late I’ve been digging anywhere at all among the words of artists.

It hasn’t been possible to get on without “Nature is usually wrong,” (James Abbott McNeill Whistler) or “Go not to the object; let the object come to you,” (Henry David Thoreau) or “There is no art without contemplation,” (Robert Henri) or “Careful planning, and brilliant improvisation,” (Sergei Eisenstein) or “I shut my eyes in order to see,” (Paul Gauguin) or “I paint in order not to cry,” (Paul Klee) or “Painting’s a funny business,” (J. M. W. Turner) or “Mine is the horny hand of toil.” (John Singer Sargent)

Sometimes, in periods of drought, I have stooped to making up my own: “Keep busy while you’re waiting for something to happen,” or “Drawing is still the bottom line.”


“Symphony in White No.3”
by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Best regards,


PS: “There are some among our comrades who imagine that words are nothing–but on the contrary, is it not true that saying a thing well is as interesting and as difficult as painting?” (Vincent Van Gogh)

Esoterica: At age 16, John Bartlett worked at the check-out at the University Book Store in Cambridge, Mass. His passionate book-learning made him a sought-after source of knowledge among Harvard students. Familiar Quotations, compiled from his notebooks and first published in 1855, went through 9 editions in his lifetime.

(RG note) I realized I was looking at the very meanings of life. The studio computer kept on regurgitating them, sometimes almost choking on them. They came from a world of studios. Many were quotations pulled directly from the walls. Some artists were just announcing they had files, binders, portfolios of them. Some quoted their private heroes, living and dead. Others simply quoted themselves. As a race, we artists use up a lot of quotations.

For this clickback we’re holding the response letters for another time. In their place we are putting up a miniature version of the Resource of Art Quotations. We are hoping to be able to let the associate editors get right into the site itself and post their collected quotations in the spots they see fit. In the meantime here is a selection of some of the quotations that have come in so far, laid out in the format they will probably appear. Rather than credit every contributor by name we have included your initials at the end of each quotation.

It all seemed to take on an extra philosophical depth when Eleanor Blair of Gainesville, Florida, submitted, “Thank you. Thank you very much.” (Elvis Presley)


Resource Sample of Art Quotations:


Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves for they will never cease to be amused. (Anonymous) sh



If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. (Henry Ford) sh



It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation. (Dr. Rob Gilbert) sh



With an apple I will astonish Paris. (Paul Cezanne) tj

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) sh

Take clear water with grass waving at the bottom. It’s wonderful to look at, but to try to paint it is enough to make one insane. (Claude Monet) dd

Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot; others transform a yellow spot into the sun. (Pablo Picasso) sh



The Sun will not rise, or set, without my notice and thanks. (Winslow Homer) sj



Art may make a suit of clothes; but Nature must produce a man. (David Hume) lt

There is, in any art, a tendency to turn one’s own preferences into a monomaniac theory. (Pauline Kael) ih

Art is the child of Nature. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) lt

Art is not imitation, but illusion. (Charles Reade) lt

Art is art. Everything else is everything else. (Ad Reinhardt) eb

All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life. (M. C. Richards) sl

Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art. (Andy Warhol) pd

Art flourishes where there is a sense of adventure. (Alfred North Whitehead) ms

The course of Nature is the art of God. (Edward Young) lt



To have great poets, there must be great audiences. (Walt Whitman) sh



We live in a rainbow of chaos. (Paul Cezanne) dd

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) sh

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) sh

Those persons who have perceptive eyes enjoy beauty everywhere. (Paramahansa Yogananda) sl

Subtle astral colors… are hidden in everything around you. Could you but see, you would be amazed at their beauty. (Paramahansa Yogananda) sl



The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else. (George Bernard Shaw) sh



Avarice, envy, pride, / Three fatal sparks, have set the hearts of all / On Fire. (Dante Alighieri) sh



Dear, never forget one little point: It’s my business. You just work here. (Elizabeth Arden, to her husband) ih

Business Art is the step that comes after Art. (Andy Warhol) ih



A wish changes nothing. A decision changes everything. (Anonymous) i



Never join an organization. (Georges Braque) eb



The opposite of simplicity, as I understand it, is not complexity but clutter. (Scott Russell Sanders) sl



The ‘refined,’ the ‘rich, the professional do nothing,’ the ‘distiller of quintessence’ desire only the peculiar, and sensational, the eccentric, the scandalous is today’s art. And I myself, since the advent of cubism, have fed these fellows what they wanted and satisfied these critics with all the ridiculous ideas that have passed through my head. The less they understood, the more they have admired me! … Today, as you know, I am celebrated, I am rich. But when I am alone, I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not in the grand meaning of the word. …I am only a public clown, a mountebank. I have understood my time and exploited the imbecility, the vanity, the greed of my contemporaries. It is a bitter confession, this confession of mine, more painful than it may seem. But, at least, and at last, it does have the merit of being honest. (attributed to Pablo Picasso) sh



An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. (G. K. Chesterton) sh

When you want to test the depths of a stream, don’t use both feet. (Chinese Proverb) sh

You cannot step in the same stream twice. (Proverb) sh



Contentment is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase. (John Balguy) sh



The world belongs to the enthusiast who keeps cool. (William McFee) sl



We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we create the world. (Buddha) pd

Straight-away the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God, and not only do I see distinct themes in my mind’s eye, but they are clothed in the right forms, harmonies, and orchestration. (Johannes Brahms) pd

As artists, we must learn to be self nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them — to restock the trout pond, so to speak. (Julia Cameron) pd

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) pd

Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training. (Anna Freud) ih

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. (Dr. Edwin Land) pd

The world speaks to me in colours, my soul answers in music. (Rabindranath Tagore ) pd

Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best. (Henry Van Dyke) pd



They never raised a statue to a critic (Martha Graham) ih

You will find that silence or very gentle words are the most exquisite revenge for insult. (Judge Hall) sh



If my husband ever met a woman on the street who looked like one of his paintings he would faint. (Jacqueline Roque, wife of Pablo Picasso) sl



A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep. (Saul Bellow) sh



The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. (Henry David Thoreau) sh



Difficulties increase the nearer we approach our goal. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) sh

Life is short, the Art is long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgement difficult. The physician must be ready, not only to do his duty himself, but also to secure cooperation of the patient, of the attendants, and of externals. (Hippocrates) d



Doubt comes in at the window when inquiry is denied at the door. (Benjamin Jowett) sh



Can’t draw, won’t draw no painting. (Chris Dennis) cd

To draw, you must close your eyes and sing. (Pablo Picasso) sl



The greater the fool in the pencil more blest, and when they are drunk they always paint best. (William Blake) dd



I have one share in corporate Earth, and I am nervous about the management. (E. B. White) sh

The hope of the world lies in the rehabilitation of the living human being, not just the body but also the soul. (Vaclav Havel) pd



I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter. (Blaise Pascal) sh

Every good artist has a good eraser. (Skip Van Lenten) svl



At the feast of ego, everyone leaves hungry (Bentley‘s House of Coffee and Tea, Tucson, Arizona) sh



Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. (William Arthur Ward) sh



We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about. (Charles Kingsley) d



We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. (Aristotle) sh

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. (Martin Luther King, Jr.) sh

The quality of a man’s life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor. (Vince Lombardi) d

We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects. (Alexis de Tocqueville) sh



Sufficient to today are the duties of today. Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you; well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours or ages that follow it. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) d

Today I am more than ever frightened. I wish it would dawn upon engineers that, in order to be an engineer, it is not enough to be an engineer. (Jose Ortega y Gasset) sh

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear. (Mark Twain) sh



Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes. (Mahatma Gandhi) sh

Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say? (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.) sh



Getting there is not half the fun — it is ALL the fun. (Robert Townsend) sh



The future is not a scenario written, which we only have to act out; it is a work which we have to create. (Roger Garaudy) sj



The mark of a good action is that it appears inevitable in retrospect. (Robert Louis Stevenson) sh



Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. (Cicero) sh

The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude. (Friedrich Nietzsche) pd

Thank-you. Thank-you very much. (Elvis Presley) eb



I think that one’s art is a growth inside one. I do not think one can explain growth. It is silent and subtle. One does not keep digging up a plant to see how it grows. (Emily Carr) ih

The growth of the spirit is a volcano that cannot be capped. Try to plug it at your peril. (John McEnulty) sh

The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow. (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.) pd



When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally. (Lao Tzu) sh



Few men speak humbly of humility, chastely of chastity, skeptically of skepticism. (Blaise Pascal) sh



The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless. (Jean-Jacques Rousseau) ms



If you want something really important to be done you must not merely satisfy the reason, you must move the heart also. (Mahatma Gandhi) sh

The way you see people is the way you treat them and the way you treat them is the way they become. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) sh



Inexperience is a quality of the human condition. We are born one time only; we can never start a new life equipped with the experience we’ve gained from a previous one. We leave childhood without knowing what youth is; we marry without knowing what it is to be married; and even when we enter old age, we don’t know what it is we’re heading for: The old are innocent children of their old age. In that sense, man’s world is the planet of inexperience. (Milan Kundera) d



Every child comes with the message that God is not yet tired of the man. (Rabindranath Tagore) sh



The vast majority of human beings dislike and even dread all notions with which they are not familiar. Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have always been derided as fools and madmen. (Aldous Huxley) sh



To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life. (Gelett Burgess, 1866-1951) sh

It is difficult to begin without borrowing, but perhaps it is the most generous course thus to permit your fellow-men to have an interest in your enterprise. (Henry David Thoreau) sh



Interpretation in art is the revenge of the intellect (Susan Sontag) ih



Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? (T. S. Eliot) sh

The artist need not know very much; best of all let him work instinctively and paint as naturally as he breathes or walks. (Emil Nolde) dd

The little I know I owe to my ignorance. (George McGovern) sh

Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself. (Chinese Proverb) sh

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. (Oscar Wilde) sh



There are two kinds of light–the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures. (James Thurber) sh



My loneliness was born when men praised my talkative faults and blamed my silent virtues. (Kahlil Gibran) sh



I love California; everything is so artificial. (David Hockney) dd

Where is the love in this? That is the most important question about any activity or relationship. Ask it when things get sticky. It’s usually the thing that is out of whack. So how do I get my whack back? Pray, meditate, go to the deeper places within. That’s always a good start. Love is a slow, sweet thing. When we get going too fast we can leave it behind. Stop. Let love catch up to you. Go back and get it. Carry it. It only slows you down if you are going in the wrong direction. (John McEnulty) sh

Every artist is an unhappy lover. (Iris Murdoch) ih

I can always be distracted by love, but eventually I get horny for my creativity. (Gilda Radner) ih

A painting is like a man. If you can live without it, then there isn’t much point in having it. (Lila Wallace) ih



Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) d

Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world. (Lily Tomlin) sl



Memory moderates prosperity, decreases adversity, controls youth and delights old age. (Lactantius Firmianus) sh



Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things. (Edgar Degas) ym



An unsettling element in modern art is that common symptom of immaturity, the dread of doing what has been done before. (Edith Wharton) ih



Watercolor is a swim in the metaphysics of life…a mirror of one’s own character. Let it be unpredictable and colorful. (Anonymous) mp

In Art there is only one thing that counts; the thing you can’t explain. (Georges Braque) eb

You can count how many seeds are in the apple, but not how many apples are in the seed. (Ken Kesey) d

The scenery of mountains painted on the ever-changing azure canvas of the sky, the mysterious mechanism of the human body, the rose, the green grass carpet, the magnanimity of souls, the loftiness of minds, the depth of love — all these things remind us of a God who is beautiful and noble. (Paramahansa Yogananda) sl



There is a harmony in autumn, and a lustre in its sky. (Percy Bysshe Shelley) sl



If I could I would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my efforts be known by their results. (Emily Bronte) sh



Painting is just another way of keeping a diary. (Pablo Picasso) ym



Each one of us has a fire in our heart for something. It’s our goal in life to find it and to keep it lit. (Mary Lou Retton) sl

Absence diminishes commonplace passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and kindles fire. (Francois de La Rochefoucauld) sh



If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. (William Blake) pd



Errors like straws upon the surface flow: / Who would search for pearls must dive below. (John Dryden) sh



Man is not free to refuse to do the thing which gives him more pleasure than any other conceivable action. (Stendhal) ym



To pray is to ask the laws of the universe to be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner. (Ambrose Bierce) sh

To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer. (Mahatma Gandhi) sh

I launch myself with the most beautiful prayer I know, the most beautiful thought. Then I let go and see what surprise, what new discovery the universe has in store for me. Thinking I know stops that, blocks the divine light. (John McEnulty) sh



I produce music as an apple tree produces apples. (Camille Saint-Saens) ih



Progress in art does not consist in reducing limitations, but in knowing them better. (Georges Braque) eb



Men seek out retreats for themselves in the country, by the seaside, on the mountains… But all this is unphilosophical to the last degree… when thou canst at a moment’s notice retire into thyself. (Marcus Aelius Aurelius) sh

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen. (Leonardo Da Vinci) sh



It’s hard to make a comeback when you haven’t been anywhere. (Written in the dust on the back of a bus, Wickenburg, Arizona) sh



We will never have repose. The present is perpetual. (Georges Braque) eb



If you risk nothing, then you risk everything. (Geena Davis) d



Hell, there are no rules here; we’re trying to accomplish something. (Thomas A. Edison) d



You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. (Mark Twain) sj



The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from. (Andrew S. Tanenbaum) sh



Success supposes endeavor. (Jane Austen) ih

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these. (George Washington Carver) sh

Success breeds confidence. (Beryl Markham) ih

Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world. (Lily Tomlin)



Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. (M. Kathleen Casey) sh



God gives every bird his worm, but he does not throw it into the nest. (Swedish proverb) sh



With the most primitive means the artist creates something which the most ingenious and efficient technology will never be able to create. (Kasimir Malevich) ih



Few people think more than two or three times a year. I’ve made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week. (George Bernard Shaw) pd



We work not only to produce but to give value to time. (Eugene Delacroix) dd

It is never too late to be what we might have been. (George Eliot) d

I thought I should do it for my time. (Judy Fox) ih



But we need to trust the outcome, to not be defeated in our hearts, ever, knowing that the very core of our being cannot be undone. Not without our consent. (John McEnulty) sh



Power is not revealed by striking hard or often, but by striking true. (Honore de Balzac) sh

As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand. (Josh Billings) sh

A few observations and much reasoning lead to error; many observations and a little reasoning to truth. (Alexis Carrel) sh

The truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind. (Emily Dickinson) sh

If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor. (Albert Einstein) sh

He who sees the truth, let him proclaim it, without asking who is for it or who is against it. (Henry George) sh

Our enemies come nearer the truth in the opinions they form of us than we do in our opinion of ourselves. (Francois de La Rochefoucauld) sh



One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny. (Bertrand Russell) d



Every one of us sees ‘green’ differently. So everything is an approximation of understanding. (Nick Bantock) sl

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. (Confucius) d

To paint, to love, to dream, to make money, to eat healthily, to dance, to sing, to think, to say: everything, nothing, to understand. (Vartini) v



Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person. That is natural. There is no single face in nature, because every eye that looks upon it, sees it from its own angle. So every man’s spice-box seasons his own food. (Zora Neale Hurston) sh

It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else. (Henri Matisse) dd

The painter, being concerned only with giving his impression, simply seeks to be himself and no one else. (Claude Monet) ih



It is the unforeseeable that creates the event. (Georges Braque) eb



Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. (Sydney J. Harris) sh



I have nothing to say and I’m saying it (John Cage) dd

A good quotation gets out the mental screwdriver and adjusts the setscrew. (Joan Larsen) jl

A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) sh

Too many words spoil the poem. (John McEnulty) sh

The words of the scholar are to be understood. The words of the master are not to be understood. They are to be listened to as one listens to the wind in the trees and the sound of the river and the song of the bird. They will awaken something within the heart that is beyond all knowledge. (Anthony de Mello) sh

Words are like leaves; and where they most abound / Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found. (Alexander Pope) sh



I have been told repeatedly that I am so lucky to be able to paint so well. Funniest thing, the more I paint, the luckier I get. (Anonymous) mp

Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment. (Robert Benchley) sh

What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way. (Winslow Homer) dd

Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relative to other matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first is unpleasant and ill-paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. (Bertrand Russell) sh

An artist never really finishes his work, he merely abandons it. (Paul Valery) d



Worry is like a rocking chair — it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere. (Dorothy Galyean) sh


(RG note) There you have a miniature version of the effort so far. The associate editors and I will weed, check attribution and add the material we have on our various systems. In a week or so it will begin to be posted.


You may be interested to know that artists from 73 countries have visited these sites since June 1, 2000. That includes J Warden of somewhere in Great Britain who submitted this quotation: “Very few people possess true artistic ability. It is therefore both unseemly and unproductive to irritate the situation by making an effort. If you have a burning, restless urge to write or paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass.” (Fran Lebowitz)

The board is presently meeting to discuss the suitability of this quotation.



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